Few players in the NBA needed a change of scenery this off-season as much as O.J. Mayo. After an impressive first season (18.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists a game) where he was named Rookie of the Year runner-up to Derrick Rose in 2008-2009 and an equally solid sophomore campaign with the Memphis Grizzlies where it seemed as though the sky was the limit, Mayo was relegated to a sixth man role by coach Lionel Hollins in his next two seasons and his minutes and stats took quite a hit as a result.
After averaging 17.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.2 steals per game in 2009-2010 while playing 38 minutes a night, Mayo’s minutes were cut to 26.3 and 26.8 the past two seasons. His shooting percentages took a dip as he shot 40.7 (2010-11) and 40.8 (2011-12) percent from the field compared to 43.8 (2009) and 45.8 (2010) and he didn’t averaged more than 12.6 points a game during the 2011 and 2012 seasons.
It also did not help that Mayo experienced some off the court troubles as well, including an infamous fight on the plane with teammate Tony Allen over a gambling debt and a ten-game suspension for violating the NBA’s anti-drug program. By all accounts however, Mayo handled his new sixth man role with the Grizzlies in stride and was a professional despite the decreased playing time and frequent trade rumors. Mayo was even included in a trade to the Indiana Pacers at the 2011 trade deadline that was not completed due to the paperwork being sent to league offices too late.
Fast forward to the summer of 2012 and Mayo’s free agency, O.J. does not turn 25 until November and teams including the Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers, and Phoenix Suns showed strong interest before Mayo eventually signed with the Dallas Mavericks on a 2-year, 8.5 million dollar deal with a player option for the second year. He joins Elton Brand, Darren Collison and Chris Kaman as part of a new look Mavericks squad expected to form a solid supporting cast for superstar Dirk Nowitzki.
It’s not as though Mayo forgot how to play the game, he is one of the most decorated high school players in recent memory and has everything it takes to be a prolific guard in the NBA. He has always been able to score, has nice ball handling skills and has shown the ability to be a very good defender in addition to his above average athleticism and strength. In Dallas, he should be immediately starting at shooting guard where his main competition is the corpse formerly known as Vince Carter and can even play the point guard position in spurts. In other words the minutes are there for the taking.
I fully expect O.J. Mayo to replicate, if not surpass Jason Terry’s production with the Mavericks and become the 18-20 point a game scorer fans and people around the league expected him to be when drafted with the 3rd pick of the 2008 NBA Draft. This is the perfect opportunity for O.J. to realize his potential, he can make himself some substantial money and find more long term security in his next contract assuming he plays at a high level in his time in Dallas. While Mark Cuban may have struck out on Deron Williams, Steve Nash and Dwight Howard this summer, he may have found himself a great discount in the signing of O.J. Mayo while maintaining financial flexibility for future seasons.